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Eurostar Nightmare


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Arriving at St Pancras it was obvious that something was wrong - huge crowds of people waiting to check in, and no-one doing so. An announcement soon told us the problem - a false fire alarm caused by a lorry shuttle in the tunnel. I went away for an hour - nothing much had changed when I got back. We stood and waited and waited and were finally let through but only as far as passport control, where we stood and waited some more. Finally after the 09.22 to Paris had departed at about 12.30 !! we were let through to the [very appropriately named] main waiting area. Finally, our train [the 11.32 to Paris] left at 14.21. Having missed my connection in Paris by a very long way and being unsure if there was a later train I could catch, I asked the train manager what would Eurostar do if I was stuck in Paris for the night - answer, nothing -  'because it's not our fault'. I found that surprising, because it would tend to imply that if there was ever a delay due to an infrastructure problem, Eurostar could claim 'not our fault', since they do not own the infrastructure.

As the train neared Paris we were told that we would be offered a free trip in compensation for the delay. Talking to some people in the queues at St Pancras it turned out that some of them were on a free trip in compensation for being caught up in the Christmas chaos!

As it happened there was a later train that I could catch, but blow me if that wasn't delayed as well and arrived 45 mins late. I finally arrived home just four hours late.

A point to note if you are delayed on an international rail journey where you have a connection to make, the second operator is obliged to accept your ticket on the next available train irrespective of the nature of your ticket eg. non-exchangeable. Just quote 'CIV Article II'. The train manager/conductor on the late running train will stamp your ticket to that effect.


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Sorry to hear of your plight Patrick, thanks for the info re missing / catching an onward connections.

It was definitely not a weekend for travel. I was delayed by one hour on a broken down train Kings X to Leeds last Thurdays and then my flight to Gatwick last night was cancelled at the last minute due to the Ash Cloud which closed all airports north of Birmingham. Luckily I had family to stay with.  I am now booked on a train this a.m.

Note about refunds:

Flybe would have rebooked me for today but obviously no guarantee the flights would operate. So will claim a refund for that flight.

East Coast trains made no mention of how to claim BUT one of the passengers told me to get  a form from the station staff on arrival and I will claim that fare.

Bon voyage everyone.

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Thanks for your good wishes. Thankfully when the system works, it works well! I am just home from my train journey. Managed to catch a connecting train thirty minutes ahead of the scheduled one and so no waiting about for the train.

The bonus was being able to see my granddaughter in very happy mode at breakfast time today with all her smiles and kisses.[:)][:)][:)]

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[quote user="bixy"]Arriving at St Pancras it was obvious that something was wrong - huge crowds of people waiting to check in, and no-one doing so. An announcement soon told us the problem - a false fire alarm caused by a lorry shuttle in the tunnel.


Those waiting for the shuttle service at Folkestone weren't lucky enough to get any sort of proper explanation - just announcements referring to an "incident train".

We were checked in for the 07.50 and got called round to the waiting area after an hour or so. Once there it was announced that we wouldn't be departing until after midday! No such luck - in the event we were on the first passenger shuttle to leave - just after 14.30.

What I really can't understand is how it can take over six hours to recover a train from the tunnel when the only thing wrong was a malfunctioning smoke alarm. Either the operation is totally inefficient or there was more to it than we were told. I notice that there was a Press Association report at 09.30 that said there had been a false alarm and that the service was back to normal - probably just as well that we were unaware of that at the time.

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I think I can sort of explain 6 hours

OK in the end it was a malfunctioning alarm (where? in the tunnel itself or on the train?) Probably quite rapid to get the train out, the standing instructions are for the drivers not to stop in the tunnel if at all possible. So, this must be investigated, is it really malfunctioning or is there a fire?  Why did it malfunction? Replace it? Is this likely to happen to other alarms? Reset the system?

I reckon this would take a minimum of 2 hours, probably 3, you couldn't reasonably expect Eurotunnel to resume services until they were sure it was safe.

So, then we have the second reason for extended delays of the Shuttle. 

You're at the bottom of the food chain.  

The penalties for holding up Eurostar are absolutely HUGE. So when services start again they get absolute priority. Next comes the rail freight trains for much the same reasons, then the Truck Shuttles because that's where the bread-and-butter income comes from and last and definitely least, car shuttles because of least money for most effort and the only comeback will be a few letters of complaint which might cost them a free trip. 

So maybe you have 20 trains held up in front of you, even at the high tunnel loadings of 5 trains in each tunnel at any time that's still another 2 to 3 hours to clear the backlog.

Sorry but that's how it is.  I'm not defending Eurotunnel (in fact I think their pricing policy is ridiculous) but I can understand why they do what they do.


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